Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Urban Design: Navy Memorial, DC

Washington, DC has some of the world's most enjoyable urban landscape. Like Chicago's Grant Park, some of the larger landscapes such as parts of the Mall are utterly lacking in human scale. However, the city is thoroughly saturated with more compact parks and streetscape that combine with the grander landscapes in a satisfying way.

The Navy Memorial is a successful urban space. Beautifully landscaped and paved, the site is positioned across Pennsylvania Ave from the National Archives. A steady stream of pedestrians come and go from the Archives Metro station entrance in the trees at the edge of the space.

A group of fountains surround the main paved space, with its map of the world set in two colors of granite. At the edge of the street, two masts flying signal flags are set between the curb and a straight section of fountain with heavy, rising water jets. The edge of the pavement parallel to the curving building facades contains cascading fountains and bas-relief brass depictions of historic Navy events. The surrounding presence of the sight and sound of splashing water provides a lively background to the plaza. There is a palpable sense of place.The landscape materials are beautifully chosen and placed.

The plaza itself is well-defined spatially by the immediately adjacent twelve-story buildings. The spatial relationships between other related buildings, some dramatically axial, are highly articulate. Particularly remarkable is the spatial axis from the National Archives, through the Navy Memorial plaza and to the Smithsonian Art Museum to the north.

I think it's one of Washington's most enjoyable spaces.

Facing west. The Archives Metro entrance just past the low wall at right.
Click on photos for larger image.

Turning to the East from preceding photo.

National Archives across Pennsylvania Ave.

The National Archives, beyond the Navy Memorial plaza.
The Lone Sailor statue is at right.

Masts with signal flags near the curb.

Photos in this post are my own. You are welcome to use them as long as you give me credit, by noting with the photo.

An excellent separate photo set is here at Flickr, with a shot inside the Metro entrance. Mr T in DC.

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